Take a detour to Haarlem, Netherlands

In En-Route, Europe, Netherlands, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

You won’t regret it

The lovely city of Haarlem in the Netherlands is only 12 miles (20km) from Amsterdam, you could hop on a train from the Dutch capital and be there in 15 minutes.

The charming Haarlem, Holland, Netherlands

We chose Haarlem for our first destination on our ‘Tulips & Cheese’ road trip.

Although we visited the amazing floral displays in Keukenhof, we decided to devote a day to this lovely historical city & we weren’t disappointed.

Armed with a map and fuelled by a great breakfast at ‘Blender’, we were off.

There is no better way in discovering a town than taking to the streets, in Haarlem’s case the streets and canals.

A helpful guide

If you're thinking of heading of to the land of tulips and cheese, then grab this DK Eyewitness guide to help with your planning.

I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.


I do have a bit of an obsession with waterways, I always seem to be drawn to them, so I was in my element.

Haarlem is located on the River Spaarne and in fact can actually boast that it sits 7ft (2m) above sea level. Which is quite high in comparison with some other parts of the Netherlands.

The River Spaarne appears to be quite popular with boaters and keeping the bridge operators busy. Although we did think it was quite amusing that the larger boats had to wait for the swing bridge operator to turn up on his moped, before they could proceed.

Like Amsterdam but...

It felt like with Haarlem we had found a hidden gem, considering its close proximity to Amsterdam the two seem worlds apart.

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Op vlucht

Along the banks of the river and canals are some wonderful old merchants houses with their crow-stepped gables.

Often you notice that they are leaning forward, the Dutch term for this is ‘op vlucht’- on flight.

These buildings were deliberately constructed leaning forward, a reason for this would be so that items could be winched up to their attics easier.

Tempted to?

Discover more of Holland, you'll be amazed how easy it is to tour around by car with. You can then visit the iconic towns of Edam & Gouda and also see the 19 traditional windmills at the UNESCO site of Kinderdijk.

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70 years on

The Windmill De Adriaan which forms part of Haarlem’s skyline was originally built in 1779, but due to a fire in 1932 the windmill was devastated.

It wasn’t until 70 years to the day, that another windmill was to built on the exact site and opened on 23rd April 2002.

Grote Markt

In the heart if Haarlem is the Grote Markt, a wonderful square surrounded by 13th & 14th century historic buildings.

The centre piece of the square is the Grote or St. Bavokerk (St. Bavos Church), built in 1479.

Can you spot it?

If you look carefully you can see a little sentry box in the roof of the church, at the bottom of the tower. This was once used by the civic guard who would keep a look out from this high vantage point.

The organ inside this church was once used by Mozart when he was ten and also by Handel.

In the 13th & 14th centuries the square was larger and use to hold jousting tournaments. Also within this square is the City Hall & the Court of Justice.

National Monument

The only remaining city gate in Haarlem ‘Amsterdamse Poort’, is located at the end of the old route from Amsterdam.

Built in 1355 it is the only gate left from the original twelve, it has since been declared a National Monument.

Frans Hals

Although Frans Hals wasn’t born in Haarlem he lived and worked there and became a renowned Dutch Golden Age portrait painter. The museum of his works was originally an old men’s home and later an orphanage.

Along this cobbled street opposite the museum are some wonderful almshouses, which are immaculately kept.

Why not?

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Cure All

If you visit Van der Pigge, which is a chemist dating from 1849 it still sells ‘Haarlemmerolie’ (Haarlem Oil) an ancient cure that apparently heals all ailments….ermmm not too sure if I’m convinced, but who am I to judge.

Amongst the lanes

One of the things we loved about Haarlem, other than the warmth of the people, was the lovely cobbled lanes. Along Korte Houtstraat you find some very quirky shopfronts and unusual items hanging along the street.

Take me to church

To soothe those tired feet there can only be one thing for it, a sit down in a church. Ohh didn’t I mention that this church has been converted into a brewery, what a shame….you’ll have to try the local tipple at Jopenkerk.

Just in case you didn't know

Unlike in the UK, in the bars in the Netherlands you do not need to pay for each drink as you go, you can settle up at the end.

Another classic race circuit

The next step on our Dutch road trip was Alkmaar, not too far in distance but we very rarely take a direct route.

This was to be no exception and as luck would have it Gary took us via Zandvoort. Yes, another motor racing circuit….

The Audi at the entrance to the Zandvoort circuit, Holland, Netherlands


Our accommodation whilst we were in Haarlem, was at the Carlton Square Hotel, a fairly large hotel, which it had an underground car park. If you are staying 3 nights or more it is beneficial to buy a weekly parking ticket rather than a daily.

The location of the hotel is about 10 minutes’ walk to the centre of the Old Town.

Plan ahead

The local tourist office has some great information, and you can also download maps here.

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Have You?

Visited Haarlem? Were you as impressed as we were by this slightly quieter, slightly smaller, alternative to Amsterdam? What about this charming city impresses you most, we'd love to hear?

Inspired to visit Haarlem?

It's a charming alternative to Amsterdam, or even a base to explore Amsterdam from - yeah, really that close.

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Take a detour to Haarlem, Netherlands

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